TRAVEL FEATURE - Girt by Nordhavn
Sydneysiders Bob and Margaret Edwards purchased a Nordhavn 46 in 2003. Since then they have travelled more than 40,000 nautical miles exploring many interesting and varied regions. This is an account of their latest voyage around Australia
We purchased Suprr, a Nordhavn 46 (hull 43) in Southern France in 2003. During the next four years we toured the Mediterranean, crossed the Atlantic and cruised the Caribbean, Panama Canal and Central America to the Sea of Cortez before a Pacific Ocean crossing to our home in Sydney.
Our latest adventure has been a circumnavigation of mainland Australia. We departed Sydney in April 2010 and travelled to Cairns with minimal stops as we had cruised this coastline on previous occasions.
A DATE WITH DON
Once in Cairns, the excitement started to build because farther north, we were to meet up with Trade-a-Boat’s adventure writer Don McIntyre and his crew on Talisker Bounty Boat. They were doing a re-enactment of Captain Bligh’s trip from Tonga to Timor in a small open boat.
Film maker Stuart Kershaw joined us in Cairns and we cruised north to Restoration Island, keeping in touch with Bounty Boat by sat phone. As Don and crew approached Bligh’s Passage — a break in the Great Barrier Reef where the namesake Captain safely transited — we went to meet them.
The Passage is relatively narrow, with breaking waves on both sides and once through it and into the Coral Sea, Stuart started filming Bounty Boat. We spent the best part of a week with them at Restoration Island, before cruising north to Cape York and Horn Island in Torres Strait with Stuart filming for a documentary.
Horn Island played an important part in the defence of Australia during World War II, with as many as 10,000 Allied troops in the area. We visited the Military Museum to gain a better understanding of this period in our history.
DARWIN SLEIGH RIDE
After leaving Torres Strait we crossed the Gulf of Carpentaria, island hopped across Arnhem Land and into Darwin.
We had been warned about the strong tidal currents, which can work in your favour — or not —
depending on your timing.
Approaching Darwin, many yachties use what is commonly referred to as "the sleigh ride". We departed Port Essington at the start of a rising tide to pick up the westerly flowing water in the Arafura Sea, rounded Cape Don into Dundas Strait — still with strong current — and into Van Diemen Gulf to arrive at a central point where the two tides meet. (The Gulf has two entrances, the incoming tides meet at a central point and then go back).
We then went with the outgoing tide, past Cape Hotham into Clarence Strait to meet the incoming tide at Beagle Gulf to take this into Port Darwin. We would normally travel about 6kts but on this segment, we were doing upwards of 10kts. It was very enjoyable to use the tides in this way.
From Darwin the next part of our journey was along the Kimberley Coast. This part of Australia is remote and considered by many as the last remaining wilderness. It has spectacular scenery, with ancient eroded river gorges, towering red sandstone cliffs, many islands and abundant wildlife.
As this area is a long distance from the East Coast and not on the world cruising route, very few cruisers visit and hence not many people get to view it from the sea. And there are only two places where land-based travellers can gain access to the coastline. One of these is McGowan Island Beach Resort (aka primitive camping ground with good fishing). The manager explained that he barges in fuel from Wyndham and transfers it into his road tanker. To refuel our boat, we nudged into the sandy beach on a rising tide and the long hose from the tanker was passed to us.
CROCS LIKE RIBS
Throughout Northern Australia territorial saltwater crocodiles are in abundance. They are known to chew on inflatable dinghies, even with people in them! For this reason, we also had a tinny (aluminium dinghy) that we used in areas we knew crocodiles lived. TIP: When you encounter a crocodile by all means stop to observe but if he starts to take an interest in you or starts to approach with jaws open, then you must depart rapidly!
In the western part of the Kimberley, north of Cape Leveque, we saw many humpback whales. They provided a panorama of breaching, tail slapping and other whale antics and were happy to approach the boat and check us out. What a memorable experience. They migrate from the Southern Ocean up the west coast of Australia to calve and enjoy the warmer waters.
Pearl farming is a big industry along the Kimberley Coast.
Very good water quality, protected bays and shallow depths provide an ideal environment for oyster growth.
On a couple of occasions we went ashore to view Aboriginal art, found in many sites along the Kimberley Coast. This art is usually done on rock walls, under overhanging cliffs and depicts animals, humans, mythical beasts, weapons and food. Some of this art work has been dated at 17,000 years-old.
On a circumnavigation, it is prudent to leave the tropical north before the cyclone season and arrive in the Perth area before the strong southwest winds develop, which is by October.
We berthed in Port Bouvard Marina near Mandurah, a friendly and economical marina 50nm south of Perth.
Mandurah was a good port to haul out for routine maintenance.
Our Nordhavn 46 has paravane roll stabilisers (floppers) and our normal procedure upon leaving port is to deploy the poles. The paravanes are only put in the water if beam swells develop. Under these circumstances the paravanes work well and we experience a more comfortable ride. If the swells are particularly short and sharp, we may adjust course and slow the boat down. The only time we needed to do this was returning from Rowley Shoals off the WA coast. During our circumnavigation of mainland Australia, we used the paravanes about 25 per cent of the time.
Considerable thought goes into provisioning for a long passage — no "popping down to the store" if you run out of something! Dried and tinned foods are purchased in large quantities and packed in the lockers. The galley has a large eutectic fridge that has access from the top and front. The top-opening freezer is also eutectic and has lots of room for storage. Perishables could be purchased at most small ports on our regular visits to shore. The galley has a gimballed three-burner gas cooktop and oven, which makes for easy cooking in most conditions.
We believed the most appropriate time to cross the Great Australian Bight in from February to March, when it’s warm and the weather systems are more stable and reliable.
We left Port Bouvard in early February and headed south to round Cape Leeuwin. This is the junction of the Southern and Indian Oceans and consequently can experience extreme conditions. Fortunately, the conditions we experienced were moderate and we arrived safely in Albany. The next major port was Esperance and we waited here for a weather window to cross the Bight.
The Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) has a very reliable site for marine and ocean forecasts that we use. We departed Esperance on the "back" of a high and arrived at St Francis Island — one of 19 in the Nuyts Archipelago — 600nm and four days later, prior to the strengthening winds as forecast by the BOM. This route-planning technique proved reliable for the rest of the trip to Sydney.
During our four-day crossing of the Bight the only evidence of other vessels were lights on two occasions, probably fishing vessels.
The Nuyts Archipelago was first discovered by Peter Nuyts of the Dutch East India Company in 1627. St Francis Island was run as a sheep station and for growing crops such as lucerne, wheat and barley, but in 1972 it was dedicated as a conservation park. We spent six days sheltered in Petrel Cove, while the winds blew in excess of 30kts. We were able to go ashore, enjoy the beach, fish for King George whiting, be entertained by the Australian sea lion, view many bird species and walk to the deserted farmhouse on the escarpment and enjoy the magnificent view.
We spent several days at the Port Lincoln Marina. This area is known for its fishing, prawning and tuna farming. One of the activities is to go out on a boat to view the great white sharks that are common in this area. We also visited Coffin Bay, famous for its oysters and enjoyed sampling some.
Adelaide was our next major stop and we had a berth at the newly constructed Cruising Yacht Club of SA’s marina at North Haven. We visited the Barossa Valley and McClaren Vale to sample some wines. These excursions were so much more enjoyable for us, particularly as we had a winemaker friend as company and he educated us on the winemaking industry.
Leaving Adelaide for Melbourne, we stopped off at Encounter Bay on the Fleurieu Peninsula and wondered about the chance meeting of the English Captain Matthew Flinders, with the French expedition led by Nicholas Baudin more than 200 years ago. Both men were leading voyages of exploration for their respective countries to chart the land then known as Terra Australis.
We had to plan our entrance into Port Philip Bay to coincide with slack tide as strong adverse currents can be experienced in The Rip between the heads.
The redeveloped area of Docklands was the home for our Melbourne stay. This is a central location, close to trams and trains but best of all, the cycle tracks. We thoroughly enjoyed the ease of cycling along the Yarra River, around the Bay and through the City.
The most southerly point of mainland Australia is Wilsons Promontory. With an early morning departure from Oberon Bay on the Prom’s western side, we witnessed the lighthouse and cottages on the headland bathed in brilliant sunshine.
The trip along the NSW coast was memorable because of the very large, long-frequency swells coming from the Southern Ocean. Quite a contrast to the short, sharp chop more commonly experienced with wind-induced conditions.
Thirteen months after departing Sydney on our circumnavigation we arrived back Pittwater in May this year.
1). Suprr at Raft Point, one of the more spectacular Kimberley anchorages.
2). Bob Edwards shows off a nice Spanish mackerel.
3). With a 10m tidal range, massive tidal movements create oddities like the Kimberley's Horizontal Falls.
4). The Bradshaws are a distinctive style of rock art found in the Kimberley.
5). Tranquil anchorages await footloose passagemakers.
6). The Nordhavn 46 Suprr with the pick down at Hill Inlet, Whitsundays.
7). Catching up with our man Don McIntyre and crew as they head for Timor in the Talisker Bounty Boat.
8). Stopover at Esperance Port after rounding WA's Cape Leeuwin.
9). A sulphur-crested cockatoo drops in for a visit at Hill Inlet.
10). Refueling Suprr at McGowan Island Beach Resort. This part of the Kimberley is so remote the manager has to barge in fuel from Wyndham and transfer it to a road tanker.
11). More spectacular Kimberley coastline.
12). The beautiful white-sand beach at West Cape Bay, SA.
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